As Southwest Airlines (LUV) has returned to fly the Boeing 737 MAX commercially, the US-based low-cost carrier looks to order 300 aircraft of the type to ensure its future fleet needs.
The low-cost carrier resumed flying with the Boeing 737 MAX on March 11, 2021, almost two years to the date when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the type on March 13, 2019, following a second fatal crash with the 737 MAX in Ethiopia.
More than a dozen Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAXs are either scheduled to fly in the next few days or have already completed several flights on March 11, as the airline became the third carrier in the US to return the 737 MAX to active passenger service, joining American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) and United Airlines. Alaska Airlines, which had no aircraft of the type prior to its grounding, took delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX in January, enlisting it to fly passengers on March 1, 2021.
Southwest ordering 737 MAX
However, Southwest Airlines (LUV) is reportedly looking to place an order for additional Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, according to a report by Reuters. The Dallas-Love Field (DAL)-based carrier is looking to acquire up to 300 Boeing 737 MAX-7 aircraft, comprised of 130 firm orders and 170 options. The airline looks to replace its aging 737-700 NextGeneration (NG) fleet, which on average, is 16.6 years old, according to planespotters.net data. The Boeing 737-700, while not as popular with other operators, has found its love story with Southwest Airlines (LUV) – out of a total of 1,128 deliveries, Southwest Airlines (LUV) has operated a total of 514 aircraft of the type, including now-retired and second-hand jets.
The direct successor of the 737-700, the 737 MAX 7, is not as popular. Orders for the aircraft were few and far between, as Boeing so far has booked 52 orders for the MAX-7, split by two operators: Southwest Airlines (LUV) (30) and WestJet (22). If Southwest were to confirm the order for the 300 aircraft, it would be a record-breaking order for the MAX, overshadowed only by Lion Air’s purchase agreement in February 2012. At that time, the Indonesian airline signed up for 201 firm orders and 150 options for the Boeing 737 MAX, in addition to 29 orders for the 737-900ER.
Rumors have lingered that Southwest Airlines (LUV) was also seriously considering the Airbus A220 to replace its aging 737-700s. While the Boeing 737 MAX 7 naturally made sense due to the one cockpit type business model of the Texan airline, the A220 offers unprecedented operating economics when compared to the smallest iteration of the MAX family. The deal was Boeing and General Electric (GE)’s to lose, according to senior executives at Southwest, as contractual issues regarding the aircraft’s engines were becoming a stumbling block, as reported by The Air Current. GE, together with France’s Safran, are joint-partners in CFM International, which manufactures the LEAP aircraft engine family – the LEAP-1B is the only engine available on the Boeing 737 MAX.